One night after Tim Wakefield lasted just 2 2/3 innings, Clay Buchholz struggled with his fastball command and was gone after 4 1/3 frames. The Twins got to Buchholz for seven earned runs over that span and made the early offense hold up in a 7-3 victory on Monday night at the Metrodome.
Before Buchholz took the mound, he found himself with a 3-0 lead, courtesy of a run-scoring single by David Ortiz and a two-run homer by Manny Ramirez, the 498th of his career.
But the Twins got two runs in the first, two more in the third and were on their way as veteran starter Livan Hernandez recovered nicely from his shaky start.
Buchholz accidentally bumped his head against the low dugout façade after being lifted in the fifth. It was that kind of frustrating night.
"I felt great in the bullpen, and I felt great before I went out there," Buchholz said. "I felt like the fastball was good. But I got out there and the fastball wasn't as good as I expected."
With his heater betraying him, Buchholz opted to rely on his offspeed pitches.
"I tried to go to the offspeed stuff, which I've done for most of the year," Buchholz said. "They were all over it. They looked like they were sitting on every first-pitch changeup or curve that I threw."
Minnesota's ability to answer with two in the first after Boston's rousing start seemed to give Hernandez a spark. The veteran right-hander shut out the Red Sox over a five-inning span and watched relievers Juan Rincon and Jesse Crain finish it up by protecting a four-run lead. Craig Monroe, a weekend nemesis for the Red Sox, did it again in the fifth with a two-run double that made it 6-3 . When Delmon Young followed with a run-scoring single, Buchholz was done for the evening.
Buchholz said he'll be discussing his recent issues with pitching coach John Farrell on Tuesday.
"I don't know what anybody can tell me," Buchholz said. "It's sort of in my hands right now. I'm going out there and leaving pitches up."
The Red Sox at least made Twins closer Joe Nathan get up and start throwing in the ninth as Crain surrendered singles to Alex Cora and Dustin Pedroia. But Crain got Ortiz and Ramirez to send the Red Sox on to Baltimore having dropped three of four in the Metrodome series.
Boston manager Terry Francona can only hope that Buchholz will work out his fastball woes before his next start.
"Fastball command," Francona said. "His offspeed [pitches] are so good. But they were able to sit soft, because he wasn't throwing enough fastballs. When he did, they ran back over the plate. When he commands not just his fastball but everything, that's where he has those games where he can get deep and [his pitches] are missing a lot of bats."
Perhaps some home cooking will turn Buchholz around. After tough outings at Detroit and Minnesota, he's 0-3 on the road with an 8.64 ERA in five starts.
"You've got to take it as it comes," said Buchholz, who will make his next start Sunday at Fenway Park. "I feel strong. I just have to fine-tune some things."
Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.